When twins Mya and Deanna Cook got permission to get braided hair extensions last spring, their white parents Aaron and Colleen Cook say it was in part to let their adopted daughters celebrate their black heritage. But it didn't take long for the 16-year-old students at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School north of Boston to be removed from class for violating the school's dress code. The girls refused to remove the extensions, their parents refused to "fix" their daughters' hair, and the controversy played out in local media. At first, the girls were removed from extracurricular activities, barred from prom, and threatened with suspension, reports NPR. "When our daughters walk with us, they have our white privilege," their father says. "When they're not with us, they're black children."
The school took heat from the Massachusetts attorney general, who accused it of "subjecting students of color, especially black students, to differential treatment and thus denying them the same advantages and privileges of public education afforded to other students," per the Boston Globe. Mystic Valley has temporarily lifted its ban, which it writes is in place because extensions are "expensive" and could lead to inequality among students of different economic backgrounds. One researcher says black females are significantly more likely to receive harsher discipline for things like hair extensions and "natural" hair that has not been straightened, effectively criminalizing their black identity. No word yet on whether Mystic Valley will change its dress code next year. (Dress code is also an issue in the House.)